The First Signs of my life at Apple

As I approach my 10th chronological and official year with Apple (Sept 2017 and Feb 2018, respectively), I am looking back at what led me here and what the road has been. This is the first post about some of my experiences on this path leading up to next February, when I hope and plan to celebrate that 10th official year. I never take the next day at work or in life for granted, but I’m excited about the next few months.

Identifying a problem

August 8, 2005, I wrote:

Mom had bought a new Dell computer, and despite my warnings, actually paid them $100 for home installation. She said the guy wasn’t there long, and after he left, the sound still wasn’t working. I took me about 20 minutes to fix what he didn’t do right (the sound and he even used the wrong I/O monitor connections), and then spent the rest of the evening installing necessary programs and getting her Outlook set up. It almost disgusts me that so much work has to be put into a new computer to get it up and ready for the individual person. I’m about to go to a CompUSA, so I think I may go by and check out the Macs.

Discovering an old archive

I recently downloaded and logged into SpiderOak, an encrypted backup service I trialed many years ago, to give it an updated look. I thought everything had been deleted from the service when I stopped using it, but I was surprised to see it had about 3GB of data in use. I found the 3GB in the trash file, and the data was recoverable!

I was impressed the service had kept 3GB of data for years in a Trash bin without so much as a login on my part. I downloaded the data to find it was an old version of my Documents folder, complete with a backup archive of my old blog. It has posts from May 2005 through January 2006, covering the separation from my first marriage and subsequent decision to leave law enforcement and my hometown!

Perusing an old blog archive

I spent time today reading through the posts. It has been almost twelve years since that place and time. In my writing I see the sparks of the person I was to become. Early signs of the growth I was to experience in leaving my first career and hometown in search of something different.

In twelve years, I have changed religious beliefs and political parties. I have lived in four different states, including moving across the country to the west coast. I have remarried and had a son with my second wife. I have had a life-altering surgery to correct a heart condition which had not been properly diagnosed at the time. I have built a second career in Information Technology, and I have worked for [what I believe is] the best computer and personal device company in the world for almost the last ten years.

Many things have changed since I was the person writing that blog. Yet, among the differences, I see the foundations which would become the life altering events the last twelve years.

Getting a solution

Before I was in tech, I was a cop. My interest in tech blossomed during that time, and I began learning what I consider now to be the basics. By the time I had written the quote above, I had become the “tech guy” in my family and occasionally at work. 

When I wrote the first quote, I was outlining a problem. I didn’t know that problem would lead me to recommend an iPod to my stepfather early the next year.

January 30, 2006:

Ok, something has been on my mind since my trip to Charlotte last weekend. I set up my stepfather’s new iPod Shuffle 1 gig, basically from scratch. This included downloading and installing iTunes, ripping about 15 of his favorite cds to the computer, and adding them all to the new shuffle. Having not used iTunes since version 1, I figured it would take me a bit to figure it all out and that it would involve reading instructions, directions, or maybe even a call to tech support (those of you that know me KNOW it is an absolute last resort). I was wrong, and that is my problem. It was all so simple and easy to learn. The interface was so intuitive and user friendly. My beloved podcasts are integrated into the program, without a need for a separate program like iPodder that I use with Windows Media Player 10. Transferring files to the new iPod was fast and simple, unlike the complex world of syncing with WMP. Somewhere in the simplicity, I was hooked. I thought of the ease of conversion of my current music library from the unprotected WMA I use now to the AAC format of iTunes. I even came to accept that the files that did not transfer well could easily be purchased through iTunes, having never given myself over to the confusing cacophony of various music stores available through WMP (fear of obsolescence, I guess). Having received an offer from a coworker just last week to purchase my current RCA Lyra, I have found myself perusing the Apple store online, searching and deciding whether to jump on the iPod bandwagon.

I didn’t know that recommendation would lead me to buy one myself, or that it would lead me into an Apple store. I couldn’t have imagined those early trips to an Apple store would influence me to apply to work at one in 2007.

Ending up on the right path

I’ve been asked many times why I left law enforcement and how I ended up in tech. The months of the archive I read today cover the answer I’ve always given: I had a choice between staying where I was and looking for something different. I took the bold choice, the one of a dreamer, the one that didn’t make sense, and it eventually worked out. It wasn’t all roses. It was far from it. Tech wasn’t the first career I tried. Apple wasn’t my first employer.

Before that decision, I was never the risk taker. Making that decision was the single pivotal choice between the life I knew before and the life I have now. It was the first decision that challenged me to think differently than before.

The Audacity of Youth

An overheard conversation

I live in a high rise building. It’s literally a glass tower. I see the irony of my liberal tendencies contrasted against the perils of gentrification and the increased pressure my presence raises on the people and families who settled here long before I thought of coming to California. Yet, it’s the best place for my family right now, and probably another topic for another time.

We have a viewing deck on the 18th floor. I enjoy sitting on the deck and watching planes come in to land at San Jose airport. One afternoon I took my son up there for the first time to see airplanes land.

While we’re waiting for planes to come, there is a young man and woman standing just a few feet away. I couldn’t help but hear their conversation, and admittedly, I listened.

The young man was explaining the perils of being a young man in society to the young woman:

He spoke of being afraid of what to say for fear of being misunderstood and branded mysogonistic.

He told her it is a common feeling among young men in Silicon Valley that they need to make big salaries before they will get women.

He told her about meeting another woman and starting a relationship, but when she wanted him to meet her parents, he ended the relationship immediately because he did not want her to think he was ready for marriage.

He told her how he came from a traditional family, and how he doesn’t think his parents understand today’s dating and the role of women in modern society, although he would willingly be a stay at home father.

He went on to talk about how feminism is dying, that in ten years feminism will be no more. Then in the same breath, went on to say women are taking over the world, and he just wants to be treated fairly.

This rather one sided conversation took place over ten minutes, about fifteen feet from me as I played with my three month old son.

Meanwhile, the young woman said almost nothing.

I don’t know and don’t want to speculate what she was thinking. She seemed to be a willing participant in the conversation, and I perceived the two to be new acquaintences, so I wasn’t sure what brought the two of them to the rooftop.

To my amazement, the young woman listened. She listened quietly, as I imagine many women around the world do, as men spew self-absorbed garbage about how advanced they are from the rest of their gender. I’m sure I’ve spewed my fair share of it out there – hopefully less today than when I was that young man’s age.

Things I do when I should be writing.

I should be writing

I enjoy writing. Whether for pleasure or work, I enjoy taking a blank page and putting words on it. There are few feelings of satisfaction for me compared to taking a blank page and forming structure from ideas.

I think the best way of improving any skill is by doing it. Reason would hold that to become a better writer, I should be writing more. Apart from this blog, I have business and technical writing at work, various personal projects and internet correspondence, and a handwritten journal I update occasionally.

Instead of writing, most days I end up:

Best option: Reading

If writing is the best way to become a better writer, reading is a close second. I read books, magazines, articles, anything about anything. I enjoy reading, and through reading learning about the world, imaging new worlds, and considering different perspectives. Even in the wildest fantasy fiction, we experience characters which present a different view of their world than what we would have. We are put in positions to build empathy and respect for characters, although fictional, which may affect how we empathize and respect those in the real world.

If I cannot write, I think I should read, and even some times I can write, I should still read instead.

Statistically probably option: Sleeping

Clocking in at six to eight hours of every 24 hour cycle, can’t rule out sleeping as something I should be doing instead of writing.

Sad but true option: Thinking of what to write

This is when I’m waylaid by my own jackassery. Maybe I need one of those writing prompt idea books. Ultimately, I think my goal in writing is to write the book I want to read. Right now, I can think of two non-fiction writing projects I could take on and a series of three to four fiction works. Why I haven’t so much committed an outline to paper is my own doing. Maybe this is the year I get motivated.

The I’m human too option: Maintaining basic hygiene

Everyone poops. Isn’t that a book?

The just like crack option: Consuming other media

Television. YouTube. Movies. Wacky internet videos. All of these things contribute to distract, calling out for precious neurons to interconnect and process, taking away from more productive tasks. As I sit here watching Rick and Morty I know my own focus is not where it should be, but hell, the point of this post is to get the juices flowing again.

Option gotta pay the bills: I’m working

Writing isn’t my day job. Truth be told, I’m not sure I’d ever want it to be my day job. I like having an office, working with other people on the type of things I work on. I’m not sure the idea of the lone writer, or even the collaborative writer meeting up in coffee shops is my cup of tea.

Nothing else to do? Write away

Which is where I am tonight, looking at a blog I started months ago which is woefully short of content. This is my jumping point to get back on the horse. Now when I’m doing those other things I am probably doing when I’m not writing, I hope to recall this post and remind myself I should be writing, then get to it.

Expensive Recycled Paper

The Cox household was out of paper.

I had a few spare moments to make a run to Office Depot to pick up a new ream of paper. We have a network laser printer for those rare times we need to print, so I usually get the cheap store brand. It didn’t take me long to find the Office Depot brand copy and print paper at $6.79. The red packaging drew my attention.

Sitting next to it, I noticed a green packaged version, the Office Depot brand Envirocopy 30  at $8.29.  I checked the specs — 20lb bond, 30% recycled, same brightness. Sure, I’ll spend $1.50 more for a similar quality recycled product. Whatever.

I pick up what I thought was a ream of the same Envirocopy 30 paper and headed to the checkout. Going through checkout, I see $11.29 come up as the price for my ream. I take another look to see I had picked up the Office Depot brand Envirocopy 100 paper. In my well-meaning quest to strike a balance between rabid destroyer of trees and environmentally cautious consumer, I was now a whopping $4.50 over the original price under consideration.

The damage was done. I paid quickly, and was already out the door thinking about my purchase and forming the basis of this post.

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Is doing the right thing worth $11.29?

Why does it cost more to save the planet (arguably)?

Producing recycled paper has additional costs over new paper production. Higher costs are associated with paper reclamation, cleaning, and pulping. A wikipedia article on the environmental impact of paper outlines the cost of preparing pulp from recycled paper is more expensive than production of virgin pulp.

Additionally, recycling certifications are added to verify to consumers the environmental benefits of the supply chain and processes used in recycled paper production. This particular product features certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council and Green-e.

How does the paper stack up?

As far as general copy/print paper goes, I personally cannot see any differences between this paper and the paper I have used in the past. There may be mild variations in durability, but nothing noticeable by the naked eye. The 100% recycled paper is bleached and smooth with no indications it is recycled. Overall, the only difference I can tell is I paid $4.50 more for the ream of recycled paper.

Summary

Was it worth it? I guess it depends on how you feel about the certification processes and the extra money diverted to the governing boards. I’d like to see a breakdown in expenses based on how much goes to the actual reclamation of paper products against the cost of certification per product, then how much overall markup is on the final product to the store. If there were any assurance that the retailer made the same amount of money from the non-recycled as the recycled, I guess that would help level the field, but from recent experiences I have had with calculating markdown from cost against markdown from price, I don’t see a world where Office Depot isn’t making a greater profit on the more expensive recycled paper.

With that in mind, next time I’ll probably just go with the 30% recycled paper product. I’m not trying to win any awards for my home use, and the price difference between non-recycled content paper and 100% recycled content paper is suspiciously exhorbitant. I’m probably getting ripped off on the 30% as well, but the difference isn’t so much I’m kicking myself for the purchase.

The best way to save on paper costs and be green is to continue reducing the amount of paper I need to print in the first place, which is getting easier. Most movie theaters can now scan tickets from my smartphone. I stopped printing photos at home. I save PDFs of things I used to print and save them to my iPad to read later. In the end, I think those go much further in being environmentally friendly than purchasing recycled paper.

Passing on the Brand

Hiatus

Months have gone by since my last post. My thoughts have not changed on Trump. I announced support for Hillary Clinton after the DNC. The intervening months have only strengthened my decision.

Silence is Golden

I get quiet when there is a lot happening. Writing is usually the first thing to go when I get busy. Priorities often limit my own time for reflection. Three months is a long time for me, so something big has kept me from taking time to form words.

My wife is pregnant, and we are expecting a son in April 2017.

I just turned 39. I will be near the same age as my grandfather when my grandparents began having children. The mirror where I view my own life through my grandfather’s is pretty clear right now. There are a lot of differences; in us, in our environment, in the world. I have come to see more similarities with my grandfather than I ever would have imagined as a child.

So comes the realization that my grandfather is my primary role model for how I will be as a father. I recall him more as the family patriarch he became than the mysterious authority figure of my childhood.

It wasn’t until I was 15 when we developed the close bond I cherish today. My grandfather shared stories of his youth, of growing up in segregation, of what the town and the world was like as he remembered. He shared with me the experiences which would mold his values and reasoning that built the rules of the house where we lived.

By the time I was 20, I had a good sense of who my grandfather was and my role to build upon our family’s legacy. We had become close, but in a relationship about ten years overdue.

Awkward Evidence of Bad Timing

My grandfather had the sex talk with me when I was almost 21. I had brought a female friend back to Virginia with me on an impromptu visit. It was about 2 in the morning, in the kitchen, after she had left for the guest bedroom and before I was about to sleep on the couch. It was a surreal moment as I was long past his ability to communicate about sexuality.

As weird as it was, it was also the moment our parent/child relationship was complete. All things before led to it, and all things after that night changed.

In a couple of years, I completed school, returned home, and our dynamic changed to me as a caretaker. I drove for him when he could no longer drive. I made doctor appointments and took him to the store. When he was hospitalized and went to a nursing home, I had an accelerated experience of caring for an aging parent. Thankfully, I was not alone. The rest of our family was there for support, help, and to pick up my own shortcomings.

Preparation

I think about my relationship with my grandfather, and I think about how I want to be as a father. I want my son to experience something like the relationship I had with my grandfather at 15 when he is about 5. I want it to be better, in my own way. I am more open, and the world has been a different place for me than it was my grandfather.

I want my son to understand me through the experiences and stories I pass on, and apply things I have learned to his own life. He will be the judge of my life, as I now become the judge of my grandfather’s.

Final Verdict

My verdict of my grandfather as a parent is to pass on some of what he taught me, some of what he gave me, and some of who he was to our son. I think he would be happy with that. He wasn’t a perfect man. Neither am I.

In this tone, I have drawn upon a quote for my goal as a parent, to pass father to son.

All that I have, all that I’ve learned, everything I feel… all this, and more, I… I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine.

Superman (1978)

If our son grows up to have the same judgement of me, I will be happy.